pp. 199-200 in Bioethics in Asia

Editors: Norio Fujiki and Darryl R. J. Macer, Ph.D.
Eubios Ethics Institute

Copyright 2000, Eubios Ethics Institute All commercial rights reserved. This publication may be reproduced for limited educational or academic use, however please enquire with the author.

Discussion on Population and Envrionment Issues

: We are going to start the second part of the afternoon session, with the first talk from Prof. Begum. Thank you for your clear exposition, we must move on to the next presentation by Dr Yi-Hong. We can have some questions. You spoke about the preference for boys, can you explain how prenatal screening is made and is there any explanation of the risks of screening.

Yi-Hong: The government policy prohibits the prenatal diagnosis of sex, but there is still some farmers or groups who do it. They can buy ultrasound devices to do it.

Keyeux: It is ultrasound, not amniocentesis or CVS?

Yi-Hong: There is also genetic analysis during pregnancy, especially for older women, and if members of the family have genetic defects.

Casabona: I am very interested in the Chinese Maternal Health Law, of 1994, that couples have to do genetic tests to make sure that they are not both carriers of a genetic disorder, and in this case, one has to be sterilized if they want to be married. Is this in fact in practice, or imposed?

Qiu: Yes, in article 10 of this law includes this, and it is controversial. It is also difficult because the law says if they find a serious genetic disease, so what is a serious disease? Many geneticists say we cannot say what is a serious disease, so this is a problem before the ethics of the implementation of this. The officials responsible for enforcement of this law say it is difficult and have postponed enforcement of article 10.

Casabona: Can I ask a second question, about this law. I have read that in relation with prenatal diagnosis when some disorder is found the doctor can advise interruption of pregnancy. Is this only advice or any enforcing of opinion?

Yi-Hong: Yes, the doctor may make suggestion of abortion but there has to be consent from the mother or family.

Azariah: I understand that there is a one child policy in China. If the oldest child is a girl, can they try for the next child?

Yi-Hong: The one child - one couple policy only applies to large cities, in rural areas two are common, and in minorities they can have more than two. In Tibet there is no limit.

Keyeux: Thank you very much, and we next invite Dr Daniels to talk. Thank you for your paper, we have only time for one question.

Qiu: Is there any debate on human cloning in your country, New Zealand?

Daniels: It has not been debated widely.

Macer: You can see some results of a survey of biotechnology in New Zealand conducted in the middle of the cloning debate, in the posters outside. Cloning was a familiar issue but knowledge of the cloning of Dolly, or the debate, did not alter the attitudes to other applications of biotechnology asked in the survey.

Keyeux: The next paper is by Prof. Song. We may accept some questions.

Pinto: You mentioned that the sex ratio was within acceptable ranges, so is there an acceptable range for Korea or Asian countries, and then later it changed? Also you said after ultrasound was available the sex-related terminations increased, but ultrasound can reveal sex around the 21st week of pregnancy, and it is very traumatic for a woman to have an abortion then. Korea has prenatal diagnosis and amniocentesis which can be done earlier, like 14 weeks. As a geneticist, I now late pregnancy abortions are traumatic, so how do women react?

Song: The drastic change in sex ratio is mainly due to the new techniques for detecting the sex of the prenate. But basically, the attitude of women to this problem has not changed much regardless of their education.

Pinto: Does that mean women are accepting this in a passive way? Did womenfs views change?

Fan: I do not see any new clear Confucianist argument for sex selective abortion. I know that Confucianism says every family should have a son, but from this premises can we argue that new Confucianism supports sex selective abortion? I do not know these arguments. If abortion itself is moral, it is OK from some perspectives, e.g. if I am a graduate student I want to abort a child to finish my studies. Then I can extend to argue for sex selective abortion if I have a preference. I may not disagree with you, I want to hear more arguments about this.

Song: I do not think that neo-Confucianism is directly related to son preference, but it created many social systems which are favourable for man-centred society, and those things have been existing in Korea for a long time. In spite of rapid change recently, these social norms cannot be changed over a short time.

Verma: Ultrasound can detect fetal sex at 15 weeks, very accurately. Is the woman who undergoes this test, forced by the husband or his family?

Song: No they do it on their own, and in that respect Korean women are quite independent.

Tan: However, in general I thought that in Korea and China women are enforced to undergo abortion, am I wrong?

Song: Yes, not at all. Korea is very different to China.

Keyeux: Thank you, we must move to the next paper by Dr Jacob. We have time for several questions.

Leavitt: Thank you for an excellent presentation, I never had any idea of what was meant by pollution until when I saw Tamil Nadu. It was totally beyond my imagination. We have to start thinking about practical solutions, and you say there is a need for a solution. You said that people are still using chemicals banned in Europe in India, and people in foreign countries who ban these chemicals are still buying the products from India. In Israel, my colleague John Goldsmith and I have tried to start a movement for foreign investors to make their investment contingent on environmental quality. So that they would invest in an industry only if that industry would adhere to environmental standards. Could we apply the same rule in India.

Jacob: Yes, it could be a good idea.

Verma: Have you presented these results to the Madras government, and what has been the effect? Can you join individuals into an organization, this may be where the remedy lies.

Jacob: Yes, everyone knows this problem. They have tried common effluent treatment to solve the problem, but I do not think it works. The environment is totally damaged. Even after constructing the common effluent treatment facility plant they cannot reverse the ecological damage.

Keyeux: Thank you, we will move to the final paper by Prof. Azariah. The two last papers enlightened us about the environment and water. We have time for some questions.

Macer: Can we have a global authority on water and would it work?

Leavitt: I do not think we can have any global political or military authority, but it is becoming very clear that capitalism and corporations are taking over the world. I want to ask you the same question I asked Thomson, is it is a practical suggestion that consumers could be persuaded not to buy products which are produced by means outlawed in their own country.

Azariah: We should reduce the demand and not create a demand for textile cloth. Prof. Verma pointed out the Tamil Nadu government should act, and recently the common effluent treatment plant was initiated, but that has not worked. The figures on the paper are different to in the field. My emphasis was that if we do not manage water, if water is reduced in its quality and quantity, we will have to pay for water. This is the mineral water bottle culture. In India, only women go to the taps to get water, but if it is less, men also have to go to get water. If water is priced, it will increase violence. I remember the formation of the Franciscans by St. Francis. Once he saw a picture of Christ he threw all his garments through the window, so the poor people could take it. So my philosophy is we should not possess more materialistic things beyond what we need. If we have this philosophy we could prolong the sustainability of the earth for some more years. Otherwise, what we pollute in India will be pollution elsewhere.

Chee: I would like to respond to Dr Leavitt. There are some international movements, like the clean clothes campaign, from womenfs organizations to build a network to identify multinational companies in particular, which discriminate against women. It is to try to force these companies to change their practice, and it could theoretically widen to encompass environmental concerns as well, if the two movements can get together. There is also a big chasm between activists on one hand and academics on the other. I find that people do not know what is happening in NGOs, we should overcome this if we want to confront the challenge of multinational corporations taking over the world. I agree with Frank, it is becoming a reality.

Azariah: In Israel, Singapore and Japan, where land is rare commodity, often land is the property of the government which only leases out for 100 years. If land is the property of the nation, then so should water be. I do not think that chlorination is good for making potable water, as it has carcinogenic and other effects. Therefore much of the so-called potable water is really not drinkable. Water should be potable and made available for every person.

Keyeux: I am afraid we must close the session.

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